07 August 2006

Life In The Big City

I don't want to become one of those lazy bloggers - not naming any names, but you know who you are - who leave their readers in the lurch by letting longer and longer intervals lapse in between posts. But being that I've been lazy all my life, I don't know why I'd think blogging would inspire a sudden change in character.

I was just catching up on 327words, written by an old - well, longstanding, anyway - friend, and while suitably entertained and inspired, was also discomfited to see that David was managing to post a gem-like essay virtually every day. True, each essay contains only 327 words - no more, no less - but as has often been observed, writing something brief and to the point usually involves much more work than rambling at great length about this, that and the other thing, as I'm prone to do. Well, I said I was lazy, didn't I?

So I've been back in New York for a few days now, and while I'm still wrestling with the dilemma of whether I want to make this my permanent home, I'm still about 80-90% sure I do. What, you ask (or maybe not), are the alternatives? I could return to London, but it feels kind of played out now. Compared with New York, it's like living in the country, or what the country would be like if you took urban ills like muggers, litter, pollution, ill-tempered people in a hurry, and malfunctioning public transport systems and transported them to Pooterville. Mostly I'm not sure I can ever again tolerate living in a city of 8 million people where most of the cafes close by 9 pm and restaurants have to stop serving food by 11 pm because "we don't have the proper license."

My other two alternatives to New York would be California or Sydney, Australia. California I've already done at great length, and am thoroughly sick of, but most of my family is there, and I'd love being nearby to hang out with my mother and see my niece and nephew grow up. But I'm not sure if I'd be very good company if I had to tolerate the provincialism and parochialism that's part and parcel of dwelling in Northern California. Not to mention paying New York-level rents to live in what is essentially a glorified hick town with a bad attitude and a crime rate double that of New York.

Sydney, on the other hand, would be ideal on many counts: it stays open all night, at least to a much greater extent than London or San Francisco, has superb weather, and is far more affordable than any of the above-named cities. Unfortunately, the Australians don't seem all that keen on my becoming a permanent resident. The government, that is; my friends there are enthusiastic about the prospect. So it still looks like it will have to be New York, and I guess I will have to accept that there are worse fates in life than to dwell in the greatest city in the world.

And what's been going here in TGCITW? It's been fairly quiet, with lots of people away on vacation, or hiding out in air-conditioned caves until the dog days of August subside, but a bunch of us made it out to the CBGB Gallery Saturday night to see half the Steinways (Grath and Ace), Kepi from the Groovie Ghoulies, and Kevin Seconds (of the legendary posicore band 7 Seconds) perform acoustic sets at a art show featuring original paintings by Kepi and Kevin. Oh yeah, Bobby Jordan, currently of the Mr. T Experience, opened the proceedings, but I arrived too late to see more than a couple of his songs.

The half-Steinways were great, of course; yes, it was strange hearing the songs without the usual amplification and percussive punch, but at the same time only served to emphasize what a great songwriter Grath is. I tried to tell him so, too, but you can't tell that guy much of anything, especially if it's complimentary. In fact my recommendation for anyone wishing to torment and torture Grath: follow him around telling him positive things about either himself or his band, preferably both.

Kepi is a born showman; he could have kept people entertained just by talking, so the songs were an extra special bonus. He's also one of the most relentlessly upbeat and enthusiastic people I've ever known. You have to wonder if he has some secret place, a dark, brooding storm cellar, perhaps, where he goes if or when a negative thought ever crosses his mind. He's also quite a good painter, and I think he sold a few of his paintings to astute patrons of/investors in the arts like Frank Unlovable.

Kevin Seconds is a painter, too, and I think his stuff is all right. But Kendra apparently didn't, triggering a mini-blog war last spring which I wisely stayed out of. Like her, though, I was a much bigger fan of early 7 Seconds than anything they or Kevin has done since. Okay, I don't think Kendra is that enormous fan even of the early 7 Seconds stuff, but I certainly was. I wish some of the early copies of Lookout magazine were online so I could link to some of the effusive praise I heaped on the band circa 1983-84. The first time I saw them was, ahem, 1980, i.e., 26 years ago, and even though I was in my utterly jaded new wave esthete phase at the time, I was completely blown away.

So like some other members of the audience Saturday night, I was a bit disappointed that Kevin refused to play any 7 Seconds songs, concentrating instead on fairly typical singer-songwriter fare. Decent enough stuff, I think, but he kind of spoiled it by talking at great length in between songs. A standup comedian he is not. My suggestion: get Kepi or Grath to help him with his spoken word material.

I know I risk getting under Kevin's skin by even mentioning these mild criticisms (I know because it's already happened before in the 1980s and 90s), and considering what an overall nice guy he seems to be, and how much of himself he's given to first the Reno and now the Sacramento music and arts scenes, I feel a little bad not being totally enthusiastic about everything he does. Alternatively, why don't I just say nothing at all if I can't say something nice, as my mom has been suggesting for most of my life? I don't know, I guess in addition to being congenitally lazy, I'm also fated to be one of those nattering nabobs of negativity that Spiro Agnew used to get so exercised about.

Speaking of negativity, don't let me forget to unleash a little on that bloated dinosaur corpse known as the CBGB empire. The hell with all the sentiment and crocodile tears, I will be very, very happy when the whole thing finally closes down and/or moves to Vegas where it belongs. Yes, it's historical and all that, but so are the La Brea Tar Pits, and the latter are probably a more enjoyable place to spend an evening.

What has got my ire particularly roused this time? Actually, the Gallery was a fairly pleasant place for an intimate little acoustic show apart, that is, from the deafening thud of one of the generically horrible bands featured in CBGB's main space next door. But waste money on soundproofing? What are you, stupid? And while we're on the subject of money, $10 for an acoustic show featuring - well, let's face it - some guys who aren't exactly international superstars? Plus they were charging another $10 to see the even more obscure unknowns performing in the basement. Ever wonder whatever happened to the tens of thousands of dollars raised by all those "Save CBGB'S" benefits? Or the millions raised by flogging those ubiquitous t-shirts, belt buckles, tampons, whatever? In the immortal words of John Lydon (and "immortal words" and "John Lydon" don't frequently occur in the same sentence, at least not if I'm writing it), "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

Never mind; roll on, Sunday night, where the action was downtown at the Knitting Factory, another of my less than favorite New York City venues. But at least this time I was on the guest list, which made me far more favorably inclined toward the good old Knitting Factory. Performing were Gravy Train, featuring my old friends Seth and Brontez. That's not to downplay the role played by the fine lady frontpersons, but while I think I've been introduced to them, I don't really know them, whereas I've known Seth for eight years and Brontez for four, going back to the halcyon days of Panty Raid and beyond.

They had a wildly enthusiastic, pansexual crowd of barely legal moshers and disco bunnies, and against my better judgment, I wound up in the center of the pit, much as I did for the Mopes at last June's Fest. But that room must have been better ventilated than the Knitting Factory, because last night I ended up more soaking wet than if I'd been on stage with the band (Brontez's annoying habit of dousing the crowd with water and beer didn't help). I walked all the way up to 14th and 1st on a (relatively) cool and breezy night before my clothes even began to dry out. Then I caught the subway home, only to bump into Brontez and Seth again outside the Metropolitan, which is my neighborhood gay bar, though I've never had occasion to visit it before.

But now I did, and it was all right. Maybe it was just the ancient disco they were playing, but it had a real 70s feel to it, and for once I don't mean that as an insult. Brontez carried on much as he had on stage, wearing only slightly more clothes, and it was all kind of glam-meets-disco with a patina of punk rock and indie-hipster, and I didn't end up getting home till after 2 am. At least my clothes were finally dry by then. Anyway, Gravy Train get the thumbs up. If they were a little bit more "serious" and "professional" they'd probably be superstars already. The fact that they're not makes them even better.


Anonymous said...

I've posted something, but...new at this, can't get back to it. In the previous I said you must be a professional writer. (Are you smiling at this? Wry smile? Benevolent? As one might a child?) :-) ~ I asked if you were in England. Anyway, enjoyed your blog (is that the word?). I'm so unhip. Blog, smog. *s*

All the best now... :-)

kendra said...

larry, thanks for bringing up my little spat with kevin seconds. yesterday somebody i had a spat with on my blog, posted a link i sent them on the most popular blog on the net, and then i played "walk together, rock together" on my show at kalx.

kevin, that song is awesome. thanks for writing.

and i'm just not a fan of painted art much. i prefer the stuckist movement.

jb. said...

Hey Larry--

Jesse in Montreal here. Looks like I just missed you in New York, it seems. I mean, I didn't exactly miss you, since I was only in town for all of six hours last weds night, though it'd have been nice to have caught up with you for a snack had you been around. We'd had an interesting evening the previous night in Washington, to which we'd driven 12 hours for one of the last Sleater-Kinney shows only to have it cancelled out from under our noses. Some god somewhere smiled on us, however, since we were able to get into the NYC show the next night before driving all night to get back to Montreal. If you're so inclined, you can read all about it a few entries down here: http://xquerenciax.livejournal.com/

My vote goes for NYC, incidentally, since it makes us more likely to cross paths in the next couple of years than London or Sydney or even CA, but also because you seem to speak more glowingly of it than any of the other options.

Patrick said...

"So it still looks like it will have to be New York, and I guess I will have to accept that there are worse fates in life than to dwell in the greatest city in the world."

So is this your official announcement that you're moving here on a permanent basis?

Anonymous said...

Santa Monica is very nice.

Chris A. said...

I wish I got to see that Gravy Train!!!! show. (You forgot the exclamation points.) I've always enjoyed what I've heard, but never had a chance to check them out live. It sounds like that's where they excel.